House panel approves bill to increase payments for workers’ comp doctors
Soon, this will cost Florida businesses a little less.

Contruction worker falling
'Access to care is really important in the workers’ comp system.'

In an attempt to beef up the number of physicians willing to treat workers’ compensation patients, a House subcommittee gave the green light to a bill that will increase — for the first time in 20 years — reimbursement rates for expert medical witnesses testifying in workers’ comp cases.

Florida’s workers’ compensation law currently limits the amount a health care provider can be paid for providing expert witness testimony during depositions on a claim to $200 an hour. Pay for expert witnesses who are reviewing medical records or who did provide care to the case in dispute is limited to $200 a day.

Filed by Rep. Dan DaleyHB 1299 increases the maximum hourly rate by $100 an hour, allowing expert witnesses to earn $300 per hour. Likewise, the bill also increases payment from $200 per day to $300 per day for expert witnesses who did not provide the care in dispute or who are reviewing medical records.

Initially, the bill also would have increased the maximum reimbursement for medical and osteopathic physicians treating injured workers from 110% of the Medicare rate to 200% of the Medicare rate. Rates for surgical procedures would have been increased from 140% of the Medicare rate to 200% of the Medicare rate.

But the Insurance and Banking Subcommittee agreed to tag on an amendment that struck from the bill the reimbursement increases for treating physicians and surgeons who operate on injured workers.

Workers’ compensation is a no-fault system meant to protect businesses from getting sued in civil court when their employees are injured on the job. In exchange, the employer is supposed to take care of the employee and return them back to work. While it’s a no-fault system meant to avoid litigation, claims often are disputed.

While the Legislature has made a priority of trying to decrease insurance rates, according to the House staff analysis, HB 1299 could result in a cost increase. There is no data yet available though, and lobbyists say the National Council on Compensation Insurance is scoring the bill.

The bill is supported by the Florida Medical Association (FMA), the Florida Osteopathic Medical Association and the Florida Orthopedic Society. While the FMA waived its right to speak in support of the bill, the Florida Orthopedic Society did not. 

“Access to care is really important in the workers’ comp system. This will go a long way to making sure physicians continue to be encouraged to participate in workers’ comp. It is one of those structural barriers we need to address moving forward,” Fraser Cobb, Executive Director of the Florida Orthopedic Society, told the subcommittee.

Rep. Joel Rudman, a subcommittee member and physician, thanked Daley for the bill.

“I currently don’t see workers’ comp, but thanks to this bill I may consider it,” the Navarre Republican said.

While Daley said the bill isn’t a “colossal change,” he said it’s a significant step in the journey to increase physicians’ participation in the workers’ compensation systems.

Christine Jordan Sexton

Tallahassee-based health care reporter who focuses on health care policy and the politics behind it. Medicaid, health insurance, workers’ compensation, and business and professional regulation are just a few of the things that keep me busy.


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